I was never really interested in train travel until visiting Japan. It might have to do with a combination of uniformly unpleasant experiences riding Amtrak, the primary passenger service in the US, and wanting to be squeezed into a train carriage by the station concierge in Tokyo.
At the same time, I like collecting tickets and boarding passes, to see where I’ve been, when I was there and most importantly, why I went. Why did I fly to Jakarta from Hong Kong three times in one week (and subsequently, why didn’t immigration care in either place?)? Why did I have a ticket stub to Shimonoseki, Japan if their most popular export was lethal fish?
But those souvenirs have come to take up a lot of space – just like me? – and a good deal of them have faded due to exposure to sunlight and/or other factors. So, let’s learn about something practical…
The Suica card is one of many mostly prepaid cards that you can use throughout Japan. Suica was originally issued by JR (Japan Railways) East – whose network includes metropolitan Tokyo and other cities – and now can also be used on other modes of transit, coin lockers, vending machines, and convenience store purchases (to my compatriots, unlike convenience stores in the US, those in Japan are both approachable and worth entering).
Note: You can only buy Suica at JR East stations, and they require a ¥500 deposit. In general, the minimum amount that you can add is ¥1000, but just last week I happened across a machine (possibly in Tamachi, but definitely on the Yamanote line in Tokyo) allowing ¥500.
But wait, we haven’t even gotten to the souvenir bit yet!
As I mentioned earlier, having to buy individual tickets and then saving those for my posterity is somewhat cumbersome. Using Suica, in itself a quality souvenir, you can also print out a ticket recording the history of your last twenty swipes/purchases. Here’s how to snag yourself a copy of one, and apologies for my camera being shy that day:
Using the same machine from which you can purchase a Suica, tap on the button that says Print charge balance history.
Bummer, it’s only in Japanese. Though from cross-referencing stations with JR maps and learning that in this case, 入 means enter and 出 means exit, a print-out of your traveling history could be slightly more memorable.
Reading the columns from left to right we have Date, Classification (purchase, add value, fare change, enter/exit, etc), Station Used (if applicable), Classification, Station Used (if applicable), and Remaining Amount.
Even if you don’t speak/read Japanese, do these souvenirs interest you? Do you also collect used tickets/boarding passes?